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Sisyphus (on the dilemma of how much to push my college kid uphill)


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#1 Jenny in Florida

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 03:46 PM

My son (super bright, busy with a million things, awesome in many ways) clearly just doesn't care a lot about school for the sake of school. He recognizes that he should have a degree in order to have the best chance of having the kind of future he wants, and he gets enthused and excited about the occasional class. With the exception of one semester, his grades have ranged from pretty good to excellent . . .

 

But he can't be bothered to lift a finger to handle any "administrative" stuff along the way. Without me "helping," he would miss (and has missed) deadlines and end up getting shut out just because he's too busy with other stuff to prioritize what he perceives as busywork. In general, once he gets set onto the path, he does fine/very well on his own, but he'd never get to the starting line without me kicking from behind.

 

I'm trying desperately to get out of this position. We've had multiple conversations about the fact that he is an adult and should be taking over more of this stuff, about the fact that I want him to own this process so that he can feel proud of his accomplishments, about how I need to back off for my own peace of mind. I've made it clear that I am prepared to play an occasional supporting role when directly and specifically (and politely) asked to do so, but that he must take the lead. I've tried waiting longer and longer and letting him fail occasionally, hoping to see a little fire lit underneath him. And sometimes I see flickers.

 

But then he ends up where he is now. After two years at one college, he decided to change direction. Of course, he made that decision almost at the end of the summer, when it was too late to transition directly to the school/program he decided he wanted to pursue, instead. So, he opted to return to the local community college for a year to take a few classes that would button up an A.A. and make it easier to transfer to the state university while also earning a certificate in a related field. It was supposed to give him breathing room but also keep him engaged and moving forward until he could apply for his chosen program at the state U.

 

The application for the program (which he already knew was very selective and accepts only a few students a year, even fewer of whom are transfers) opened in October. He was busy (true enough -- he was working nearly full time and carrying a full class load at the CC) and kept putting off getting it finished and submitted . . . until he just didn't do it at all. 

 

We talked about a fallback plan, and he decided he would still transfer to the state U and do a less specialized major. He understood that he still needed to submit applications to the university and to the program and that the program application would require some supporting documents (recommendations, primarily, which he should have no problem getting). 

 

Well, the program application deadline came and went. The auditions for the minor he wants to do came and went. 

 

In the past, I've had some success with actually scheduling a time to sit down with him and formally meet to review stuff and come up with an action plan. So, when I realized that the deadline to submit the transfer application is coming up next month, I told him we needed to meet. He agreed, but kept putting off setting a time. 

 

He's made it clear that he dislikes it when the bulk of our interactions are about academics, and I get that. So, I was carefully trying to allow time and space for some more casual, pleasant, familial stuff to go on before I got pushy. Finally, I took the opportunity one day when we were both in the kitchen packing lunches for the day to remind him that we really needed to set a date/time to talk. I also asked him to do both of us a favor and do some thinking before we met. I told him that I still feel strongly that he should finish a bachelor's, especially since he has already invested so much time and energy in the process, but that I never want him to feel resentful or that I somehow frog-marched him through to a degree he didn't want or value. I asked him to try to envision and articulate what he wants for his future and how education fits into that and to make sure he is making intentional choices.

 

He said he was ready to answer that right then, assured me that he feels nothing but appreciative of my help and support, that he absolutely wants to finish the B.A., etc.

 

Two days later, we finally sat down together. We looked over the degree audit from the CC and verified which CLEPs he needs to do this summer to nail down that A.A. (He has a ridiculous number of credit hours, but not in quite the right combination to check off the boxes.) We ordered the prep book for the one for which materials aren't available through our county library. He submitted the application to transfer to the state U. He understands he may need to start classes without a declared major and that he will need to meet with an advisor on campus as soon as possible to figure out how to get into a program.

 

After he clicked "submit" on the application, he got a message saying that, within 24 - 48 hours, he would receive an e-mail with his network ID and would be able to log into the university's portal and see what other documents might need to be submitted, etc. I emphasized that he really needed to stay on top of that part, because the deadline is coming up, and, if it turns out he needs transcripts or anything like that, they will need to be requested right away.

 

It's now a week later and, despite me asking about it a couple of times, he has yet to log onto the portal.

 

A big, big part of me wants to throw my hands up in the air and say, "Forget it, he's on his own." I'm exhausted trying to both keep him on track and stay cheerful and loving about it, and I don't want to sacrifice our relationship in pursuit of a piece of paper. And I know that a majority of folks here are likely to tell me that I've already done too much, that he's an adult and needs to learn, by failing if necessary, to act like one. In theory, I agree.

 

But it's not like this is a man-child who sits around all day playing video games. He's not in any way a slacker. If anything, his problem is the opposite; he's interested in and talented at so many things that he is busy all the time. He works, does well in his classes, puts a ton of effort into learning and practicing his skills on his own time and is well into year two of a stable and mostly healthy romantic relationship.

 

My husband and I both know from personal experience how easy it is to put off education until it becomes difficult/impossible to do. His parents would have financed at least the first two years of college for him and paid the expenses for him to continue living at home, but he didn't put in the effort to actually get to class. Only once he got into his 30s did the lack of a degree start to really pinch, and by that time we had two little kids and a ton of expenses and he was working full time while coping with chronic pain from an old injury. I have a bachelor's but walked away from an opportunity to get a master's degree nearly for free because I "couldn't focus on it" while I was working. Then I was home with the kids. Now that I'm back to work, the whole landscape has changed, and jobs that would have required only a bachelor's 30 years ago now really want a master's. So, both of us are facing treading water for another 15-20 years until retirement, limited by decisions (or non-decisions) we made decades ago.

 

And we share a determination not to set up our kids for the same pitfalls.

 

But still -- I don't want to shove our son through to a degree at the expense of encouraging him to grow up.

 

I seriously have no clue how to walk this tightrope.

 

What would you do? What have you done?

 

 


Edited by Jenny in Florida, 19 May 2017 - 04:12 PM.

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#2 MerryAtHope

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 04:47 PM

This is why executives have administrative assistants! Whew!

 

I think I would directly ask your son what he would like your involvement to be. Does he want you to just be the supportive parent and let him sink or swim? (If he does, are you willing to do that, even given what you and your dh have experienced? If so, I'd probably at least share that wisdom, but knowing he wants no involvement would help you know how to proceed.)

 

Is he honestly assessing his level of busy-ness (does he really need to let some things go so he's not so busy/overwhelmed)?

 

Does he recognize that he has too much going on and could really use outside help to help him reach deadlines? (Because if he recognizes this, it would be so much easier and less stressful for you to not have to walk on eggshells but to simply give him the deadlines each week and make sure they are enough ahead to give wiggle room). This is where I landed with my son--that it's actually much less stressful for both of us for me to be move involved rather than less with certain things.  

 

My son specifically requested that I write things down like this--that is an accommodation that really helps him. A spoken conversation easily gets crowded out, but if your son has a place to pin up a to-do list, or a place on his desk etc..., that can help.

 

Another approach is to actually get out the calendar and ask, "When this week do you have 2 hours to work on xyz?" and write it on the calendar. If he needs a google calendar reminder or a pop-up, or a sticky note on his laptop (son's current self-reminder system)--see what it takes to make that happen. I find it helps to say something like, "You need to decide today what your plan is for handling xyz. Let me know by 10 tonight what you have decided."

 

It's specific, there's a goal, it's clear and direct, but the ball is in his court.

 

I think there's a difference between a kid who only puts in half-effort in classes and really shows they don't care much about their progress, and one who actually does put in good effort, at least most of the time, but struggles with these administrative pieces that are more easily "out of sight, out of mind" type things. If your son was in the former category (doesn't sound like he is), then that would seem like you were pushing him through for no good reason. I don't think it's pushing a kid through to help when they are in the latter category. OTOH, I also don't think it's wrong to just let it all go and let them sink or swim, if both you and the student can live with those consequences. (While I'm paying for college and/or possibly cosigning loans, it's not something I could afford to have happen, and would be an accommodation I would make, all while having my student try to take over more of the process). It's not like your son has no responsibility or maturity (he's working and going to school--he has some solid skills), he's just struggling to put it all together. I don't think it's babying to help in that case. 

 

I have a friend who is administratively gifted, and I see her step in to volunteer for all kinds of things where people with great ideas can't seem to get things done--and I think that's a beautiful thing. She's using her gifts to help others use their gifts. Sure, she could not step in and let them sink or swim--and lots of great things that help and bless others wouldn't get done. 

 

I don't see this as all that different. Like you said, his issues are not because he's sitting around playing video games!

 

 


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#3 Renaissance Mom

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 05:05 PM

I just love the title of this thread!
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#4 Jenny in Florida

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 05:10 PM

This is why executives have administrative assistants! Whew!

 

I think I would directly ask your son what he would like your involvement to be. Does he want you to just be the supportive parent and let him sink or swim? (If he does, are you willing to do that, even given what you and your dh have experienced? If so, I'd probably at least share that wisdom, but knowing he wants no involvement would help you know how to proceed.)

 

Is he honestly assessing his level of busy-ness (does he really need to let some things go so he's not so busy/overwhelmed)?

 

Does he recognize that he has too much going on and could really use outside help to help him reach deadlines? (Because if he recognizes this, it would be so much easier and less stressful for you to not have to walk on eggshells but to simply give him the deadlines each week and make sure they are enough ahead to give wiggle room). This is where I landed with my son--that it's actually much less stressful for both of us for me to be move involved rather than less with certain things.  

 

My son specifically requested that I write things down like this--that is an accommodation that really helps him. A spoken conversation easily gets crowded out, but if your son has a place to pin up a to-do list, or a place on his desk etc..., that can help.

 

Another approach is to actually get out the calendar and ask, "When this week do you have 2 hours to work on xyz?" and write it on the calendar. If he needs a google calendar reminder or a pop-up, or a sticky note on his laptop (son's current self-reminder system)--see what it takes to make that happen. I find it helps to say something like, "You need to decide today what your plan is for handling xyz. Let me know by 10 tonight what you have decided."

 

It's specific, there's a goal, it's clear and direct, but the ball is in his court.

 

I think there's a difference between a kid who only puts in half-effort in classes and really shows they don't care much about their progress, and one who actually does put in good effort, at least most of the time, but struggles with these administrative pieces that are more easily "out of sight, out of mind" type things. If your son was in the former category (doesn't sound like he is), then that would seem like you were pushing him through for no good reason. I don't think it's pushing a kid through to help when they are in the latter category. OTOH, I also don't think it's wrong to just let it all go and let them sink or swim, if both you and the student can live with those consequences. (While I'm paying for college and/or possibly cosigning loans, it's not something I could afford to have happen, and would be an accommodation I would make, all while having my student try to take over more of the process). It's not like your son has no responsibility or maturity (he's working and going to school--he has some solid skills), he's just struggling to put it all together. I don't think it's babying to help in that case. 

 

I have a friend who is administratively gifted, and I see her step in to volunteer for all kinds of things where people with great ideas can't seem to get things done--and I think that's a beautiful thing. She's using her gifts to help others use their gifts. Sure, she could not step in and let them sink or swim--and lots of great things that help and bless others wouldn't get done. 

 

I don't see this as all that different. Like you said, his issues are not because he's sitting around playing video games!

 

So, he says he wants me involved. In fact, when I intentionally tried to back off for a while, he told me he felt "abandoned." He has encouraged his girlfriend to work with me on her college stuff, too, because, to quote him, I am "really good at this" and have "saved his butt many, many times."

 

He knows my husband's and my educational histories and frustrations and clearly says he wants to avoid ending up in a similar situation. 

 

That's what he says most of the time, but then he gets irritable when I cross some invisible line. Or, more frequently, he does what he's doing with the state U by speaking the right words but then doing the absolute bare minimum required at the absolute last minute and only after I force the issue.

 

And I don't at all mind being involved. I actually am a really good support person, a role I played in various ways for both of my kids over the years. The problem is that I get frustrated when it feels like I care more or am more invested than he is, when it feels like my efforts are wasted because he doesn't follow through.

 

We've done the specific thing. We've done the calendar thing. The deadline thing worked when he was still homeschooling and I had any actual control. (When he stalled on finishing college apps, for example, I sat him down with a calendar and checklist, told him what needed to get done by when and that, if he didn't finish everything, I would assume he was homeschooling for another year and sign him up for classes with the virtual school. Done.)

 

Now, though, deadlines just kind of float by. And given that he's now 19 and working and not even home that much, I have no leverage to enforce compliance. 

 

Thank you, though, for framing your comments as you did. That's very much how I see things -- that he's doing so well in so many ways and just needs some guidance in this one area. I'm just struggling with the question of when "guidance" and "support" end up undermining the potential for growth.

 

Edited by Jenny in Florida, 19 May 2017 - 05:18 PM.

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#5 happysmileylady

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 05:24 PM

I think what you really need to do is stop pushing about getting the college degree. 

 

Start pushing about setting a goal.  What does he want to do with his life?  What sort of things fulfill him?  Maybe he needs to do some career exploration. 

 

Once he has a goal in mind, then you can help him lay out a plan for achieving that goal.  And if his goal is "big enough" then it will be important enough to him to meet those administrative deadlines.

 

Two other things...

 

 

And we share a determination not to set up our kids for the same pitfalls.

You may have that determination not to set him up, but at some point, you won't be able to prevent him from setting himself up.

 

 

Also, a line people say a lot on another board I am on is that...

 

You can't care more about his situation than he does.  I mean he's your child and you can CARE of course, but ultimately, this situation is HIS, and not yours, and you can't do this for him. 



#6 Jenny in Florida

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 05:34 PM

I think what you really need to do is stop pushing about getting the college degree. 

 

Start pushing about setting a goal.  What does he want to do with his life?  What sort of things fulfill him?  Maybe he needs to do some career exploration. 

 

Once he has a goal in mind, then you can help him lay out a plan for achieving that goal.  And if his goal is "big enough" then it will be important enough to him to meet those administrative deadlines.

 

Well, I did explain that he does have life and career goals and is able to articulate them to me and does understand that a degree is part of those goals. 

 

He has big goals, and he sees the big picture. It's just getting the small ducks in a row that seems to be his stumbling block.

 

You may have that determination not to set him up, but at some point, you won't be able to prevent him from setting himself up.

 

 

Also, a line people say a lot on another board I am on is that...

 

You can't care more about his situation than he does.  I mean he's your child and you can CARE of course, but ultimately, this situation is HIS, and not yours, and you can't do this for him. 

 

 

That's kind of the entire point of my post, that I'm struggling with trying to find that line.


Edited by Jenny in Florida, 19 May 2017 - 05:37 PM.


#7 prairiewindmomma

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 05:44 PM

I think it's time for him to be wholly accountable for his life because he has yet to feel any real consequences for his choices--this was the kid with the Disney job that you were driving in the middle of the night for, right? Also the same kid with the specialized shoe issue? And the one who mismanaged getting into housing? And transferring between schools? And....a number of other things that come to mind.

It is not uncommon for gifted people to struggle with executive functioning skills.
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#8 Julie of KY

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 05:59 PM

I don't fault you at all for helping him as he desires. If he wants you to back off and to fail then that's his choice, but if he recognizes that he has executive functioning difficulties and asks for help, then I'd keep giving it to him.

 

I would certainly keep pushing him to do things more independently - asking have you done this? etc. Also ask him to specifically ask for help so it's not just you choosing to insert yourself. It's a hard place to be.



#9 happysmileylady

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 06:45 PM

Well, I did explain that he does have life and career goals and is able to articulate them to me and does understand that a degree is part of those goals. 

 

He has big goals, and he sees the big picture. It's just getting the small ducks in a row that seems to be his stumbling block.

 

 

That's kind of the entire point of my post, that I'm struggling with trying to find that line

Does he really have big goals, or does he SAY he has big goals because you are trying so hard to make sure he doesn't make your mistakes that he doesn't want to disappoint you?

 

 

 

I would like to gently suggest that if you are struggling to find the line, perhaps it's already been crossed.  Maybe not, but maybe so. 

 

 

 

ETA:   I went back and re-read to be sure I wasn't missing something.

 

I didn't see where you said he had a specific career goal in mind?  You said he told you, after you asked, that he wants to finish his bachelors.  You also said he's looking at an undeclared major.

 

Honestly, to me, those don't sound like "big goals."    Those sound like "just finish school."   What does he want to do AFTER school?  What career does he want?


Edited by happysmileylady, 19 May 2017 - 06:52 PM.


#10 forty-two

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 06:46 PM

So, he says he wants me involved. In fact, when I intentionally tried to back off for a while, he told me he felt "abandoned." He has encouraged his girlfriend to work with me on her college stuff, too, because, to quote him, I am "really good at this" and have "saved his butt many, many times."

He knows my husband's and my educational histories and frustrations and clearly says he wants to avoid ending up in a similar situation.

That's what he says most of the time, but then he gets irritable when I cross some invisible line. Or, more frequently, he does what he's doing with the state U by speaking the right words but then doing the absolute bare minimum required at the absolute last minute and only after I force the issue.

To me it sounds like he wants contradictory things (as do many of us): he wants to be successful but he doesn't want to do some of un enjoyable bits that go into being successful. He wants you to help him get those difficult/unpleasant bits done, excepting for the times when he doesn't want to do those things (and so gets annoyed with you for pushing). But he doesn't want you to stop helping, because he *does* want to succeed and wants your help in making succeeding easier. Except that "easier" isn't the same thing as "easy", and while he wants to succeed in theory, in practice his desire to avoid the unpleasantness is stronger than his determination to succeed.

Or at least that was me in college. I wanted to succeed while also prioritizing doing things that gave me pleasure over things that didn't. Prioritizing "play" (that which gives pleasure) over "work" (that which doesn't) doesn't have to mean defaulting to easy, low-effort forms of play like video games; it can involve doing quite a lot of good, productive, effort-ful things. But ime it still erodes self-discipline and really hurts long-term success. In my case I was well aware of the problem and welcomed help in solving it - until it came down to actually making the hard choice to tackle the unpleasant task, in which case I found some reason or other to put it off. And did my best to avoid the people who were providing help in the form of accountability. Until I either did it at the last minute or failed to do it - so in either case it was over - and recommitted to doing what it took to succeed. Until it came down to doing the hard task, and I started the whole procrastination cycle again. I refused to give up either side - I was determined to both succeed and yet continued to refuse to do the hard bits that went into succeeding - and eventually drove myself into a depression over it.

I later realized that I wanted help to make it easier to do the unpleasant things, only no amount of help could make it *pleasant* - and I was very much in the habit of only doing things that were pleasant. (It took the looming threat of deadlines and failure to meet deadlines to spur me to doing unpleasant things - that usually were pleasant enough once I got going (except for the immense time crunch stress).) And so I welcomed help-that-makes-things-pleasant-or-easier, and help-that-removes-obstacles - but not help-with-working-through-obstacles. Because I didn't *want* to work through obstacles, it wasn't *pleasant* to work through obstacles - so I'd put it off till later, and later again, until I magically felt up to dealing with obstacles or they went away. And most school deadlines, when you fail to deal with them, they *do* go away. There's consequences, of course, but in the short term they felt easier to deal with than the obstacle itself.

Idk, I just see myself in your description of your son: both wanting to succeed while not wanting to deal with the more unpleasant obstacles on the path to success, and the contradictory desires fighting with each other - and with you.

:grouphug:
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#11 GoodGrief

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 07:09 PM

Wow, forty-two's description of a very common mindset is spot on!

 

Personally, I'd keep helping him. He sounds like your typical creative type (they make terrible business people generally, as administrative tasks are not of interest!) However, I wouldn't worry about being sweet as he avoids deadlines and such. If he's avoiding a task, I'd get firm/direct about it. That would be the cost of receiving my help, I suppose :-) Am I understanding correctly that he still has a certain amount of financial dependence on you? I think that certainly justifies you having a say in the timing of his accomplishing tasks.

 

He sounds like a lovely kid, who just needs a bit of help as he transitions to grown up/financially independent.


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#12 Jenny in Florida

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 07:29 PM

I think it's time for him to be wholly accountable for his life because he has yet to feel any real consequences for his choices--this was the kid with the Disney job that you were driving in the middle of the night for, right? Also the same kid with the specialized shoe issue? And the one who mismanaged getting into housing? And transferring between schools? And....a number of other things that come to mind.

It is not uncommon for gifted people to struggle with executive functioning skills.

 

Definitely not uncommon. Both my husband and I had some of the same difficulties. And we each did a lot of damage to our lives and our futures while struggling without support to develop those skills.

 

However, I have to say that your characterization is a bit unfair, or at least incomplete. For example, as a result of that job, he banked a few thousand dollars. In the intervening months, he got his driver's license, purchased my old car from us and has begun paying his share of the auto insurance, as well as his gas and tolls. He also racked up a 4.0 GPA for that semester, despite the six weeks of functioning on virtually no sleep several nights a week.

 

He parlayed that temporary job into an ongoing position in his desired field (technical theatre). He's the youngest person on his team and frequently works overnights and/or shifts that run 10-12 hours. At the same time, during this past semester, he designed and made puppets for a show at his college. He also auditioned for the show and ended up performing as a puppeteer and in a featured speaking role. The dance department tried very hard to recruit him, although he turned them down because he realized he couldn't take on one more thing. However, he does have an open invitation to drop in on classes when he can find the time. His grades did fall off a little bit this semester: He ended up with "only" a 3.75.

 

And the "specialized shoe issue" is the result of an ethical stance, which I happen to share, not exactly an example of some kind of character flaw.

 

I mean, on the whole,even though he's not perfect, I'd take him over any other 19 year old I know.



#13 Jean in Newcastle

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 07:53 PM

Does he have an ADD diagnosis? If so, he should be able to get some EF support from the disabilities office. That would be one step removed from you.


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#14 Jenny in Florida

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 07:55 PM

Does he have an ADD diagnosis? If so, he should be able to get some EF support from the disabilities office. That would be one step removed from you.


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Nope. We have no reason to think he has ADD.



#15 Nan in Mass

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 07:57 PM

That sort of task was really hard for mine until they were about 25.  Then something clicked and they started being able to do it.  We decided that if we wanted them to have a degree, we were going to have to help, especially with that sort of task.  Ours were really grown up about a lot of things, more grown up than lots of older adults.  They just especially weren't grown up about that sort of thing.  Our strategy was to help them through college and hope that by the time college ended, they would be better at that sort of thing.  And they were.  Not completely there, but better.  Slowly, they have improved over time.  We are really glad that we helped.

 

I actually remember what that felt like.  At first, whenever I thought about doing a task like that, I felt completely overcome by lethargy.  Then I got old enough that the total lack of energy usually meant that there was either a piece of the task that I hadn't figured out, or a decision to be made that I wasn't ready to make.  I am way better at that sort of thing, now.

 

Another family member took a more hands-off, sink-or-swim approach and didn't understand why we hadn't done the same until one of theirs sank.  At that point, I think they realized that some people learn to swim late and when that happens, providing a life preserver for awhile isn't such a bad idea.  The young person started over, with a life jacket this time, and was much more successful, and needed it less and less every year.  This person is waaay more intelligent than my sons, by the way.

 

Everybody is different and every family is different.  This might not be the right approach for everyone.  Mine are old enough now for me to be able to see that for us, this was the right approach, though.

 

Nan


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#16 Crimson Wife

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 08:15 PM

I don't know what is really going on with your son, but for me personally, a big part of missing deadlines to apply to academic programs stems from ambivalence over whether or not I actually want to take the plunge.

 

I've already missed two cycles of applying to graduate school (for admission fall 2016 and fall 2017) and I've been dragging my feet on finishing my applications for spring 2018 (deadlines are 6/1 and 6/15 so I really need to get my $#*+ together to make those). The previous 2 cycles at least I had a legitimate excuse of wanting to focus on finishing my 2nd bachelor's. But I graduated at the beginning of the month so that's no longer an excuse.

 

This is my one shot at graduate school because I'm too old to enter a field, decide it's not the right one, and then go back to school for something different. I'm closer to 50 than 25 at this point. There is SO MUCH PRESSURE to get the decision right as a result. :scared:


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#17 Nan in Mass

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 08:20 PM

Jenny - More people were answering while I was typing so I want to add something now.  19 is way young. : )  There is a reason why 21 used to be the age of majority.  Your list of what he HAS accomplished is great!  I think he's doing great!  There are just some things that he isn't doing well.  Unfortunately, one of them is various college applications, which could be interpreted as having extra meaning attached to it. And then, on top of that, he is 19 and behaving like a typical 19yo when it comes to knowing he needs mum's help and not wanting mum's help, a combination of annoyed and embarrassed.  And school isn't his favourite thing and applications are definitely not fun and ...  When he is older, needing help won't bother him as much and he will be much more gracious about it.  When he is older, he won't need quite as much help, either.  I think it is pretty common for 19yo's to have lots of help with that sort of thing.  It just isn't talked about much because parents are hampered by privacy concerns.  We are lucky that here, we can get away with discussing things more openly. : )

 

Nan


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#18 Nan in Mass

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 08:40 PM

: )  I thought of another thing that might be encouraging.  It won't make the pushing any easier but it might make you feel better about pushing.  My parents tell stories of when they were in college.  My father's parents thought he was not well prepared for engineering school and filled out the application for a year of junior college and arranged for him to live with a cousin while he was going.  Then they filled out the application for UVa and sent him there.  He says he never would have gotten through engineering school if his roommate hadn't helped him.  His roommate helped him apply for a job afterwards, too.  He had a very successful career as an engineer, successful enough to retire at 55.  He was the model of responsible adulthood.  He just was a late bloomer.  In those days, it was possible to do that for your child because you weren't considered an adult until you were 21.  The college was in loco-parentis (sp?).  My mother went to a small LAC.  I have no idea how the application process went, but she had a dorm mother who was responsible for the girls in her dorm.  The dorm mother made sure they all followed the rules.  She tells the story of them bringing a dog that followed her roommate home up to their room and the dorm mother, who knew what they had done, calling up the stairs to them, "Girls, I'm sure you don't have a dog in your room, do you!" and them calling back, "Oh no, Mrs. --- "and then hastily sneaking him back out again.  They sent their laundry home in boxes to be washed by their mothers and sent back.  Very different expectations.  I don't think they were any less grown up in the end than our students are. : )

 

Nan


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#19 Emerald Stoker

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 09:16 PM

Listen to Nan!

 

He'll be fine, Jenny--you're doing the right thing by helping out, and it will all be OK in the end. He sounds like a great kid to me.



#20 OnMyOwn

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 09:36 PM

My son is a little younger, Jenny, but I struggle with some of the same questions. Thought you might enjoy this.

https://goo.gl/images/IqNVKs
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#21 Gwen in VA

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 10:55 PM

Keep helping -- but keep talking.

 

As others have said, sometimes people postpone dealing with stuff they honestly are not sure they want to deal with -- and he is old enough to start owning his goals and direction.

 

Keep on talking and making sure that you are not somehow subliminally transmitting "your desires" onto him. If he is at all a people-pleaser, he will go to great lengths to keep the parental unit happy, so do make sure that you are not pressuring him in ANY way.

 

My ds1 floundered for years but now has an amazing career and a fiancee -- all acquired within the past AMAZING 15 months! So they can take off when you least expect it!


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#22 MerryAtHope

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 12:46 AM

So, he says he wants me involved. In fact, when I intentionally tried to back off for a while, he told me he felt "abandoned." He has encouraged his girlfriend to work with me on her college stuff, too, because, to quote him, I am "really good at this" and have "saved his butt many, many times."

 

He knows my husband's and my educational histories and frustrations and clearly says he wants to avoid ending up in a similar situation. 

 

That's what he says most of the time, but then he gets irritable when I cross some invisible line. Or, more frequently, he does what he's doing with the state U by speaking the right words but then doing the absolute bare minimum required at the absolute last minute and only after I force the issue.

 

And I don't at all mind being involved. I actually am a really good support person, a role I played in various ways for both of my kids over the years. The problem is that I get frustrated when it feels like I care more or am more invested than he is, when it feels like my efforts are wasted because he doesn't follow through.

 

We've done the specific thing. We've done the calendar thing. The deadline thing worked when he was still homeschooling and I had any actual control. (When he stalled on finishing college apps, for example, I sat him down with a calendar and checklist, told him what needed to get done by when and that, if he didn't finish everything, I would assume he was homeschooling for another year and sign him up for classes with the virtual school. Done.)

 

Now, though, deadlines just kind of float by. And given that he's now 19 and working and not even home that much, I have no leverage to enforce compliance. 

 

Thank you, though, for framing your comments as you did. That's very much how I see things -- that he's doing so well in so many ways and just needs some guidance in this one area. I'm just struggling with the question of when "guidance" and "support" end up undermining the potential for growth.

 

I would gently and calmly call him on it when he gets irritated. "I know it's not fun to be told what to do, but you asked me to help you and hold you accountable. It's not right to be upset with me." Usually something like this brings my son out of that type of attitude. Or, offer the do-over. "Would you like to try saying that again?" (a genuine do-over--not said snidely. Sometimes people say things they regret or in a tone they regret--especially teens.)

 

And when you seem to care more than he does, don't let that resentment build up. Address it directly at the time. "When you don't meet the goals we set each week, it makes me feel like you are taking me for granted. I'm glad to help you, but when you do this, it makes me feel you don't care. Is that how you feel?"

 

This gives him a chance to either change goals or take ownership of how he's been acting (and to experience part of the consequence instead of you carrying the brunt.)

 

When I mentioned about the calendar--I meant in response to when you say that you need to meet and he just kind of says yeah but doesn't commit to a time--in those times, get him to commit to a day and time to actually deal with things. 

 

I would address his issues directly when he doesn't follow through. "You had intended to do xyz but then didn't follow through. What would help you do a better job of following through next time?" If he answers "I'll just have to do it next time," say, "I mean, what's your plan for making sure that happens?" If he struggles to come up with a plan, you could offer suggestions at that point, or ask him to go think/pray about it and come back in an hour with his plan--your goal is to not just let the deadlines that he wants help with go by and then you be frustrated that you're working and he's not--but to help him get to that point where he will own his inaction and take steps to not keep being that way. Think of this as scaffolding to eventually get him to the point where he doesn't need you to stay on top of his deadlines--but one of the early steps is getting him to keep up with them with your reminders, and then eventually being able to set up his own system. Does that make sense?

 

I wonder if he needs a more visible plan (for example, a white board with the action plan in a prominent location so he has to pass it each day and sees the goals he needs to check off on specific days.) Some people are very visual and that helps keep them on track. 

 

When I think of accountability with teens and adults, it's not "do this or I'll apply a consequence" oriented--it's not your job to "make" him do it. But there is a sense of--is he a man of his word, and how can you help him be a man of his word? This is one of the responsibilities you want to help him to see and to grow into. If he says he'll do xyz by a certain time, then barring something very significant that stops him (rather than procrastination and then no time), he needs to carry through or be more realistic about what he can do. That's more what I see as a goal for helping teens/young adults who may sometimes struggle in some of these areas. 

 

Anyway, hang in there!


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#23 Joules

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 06:37 AM

Nan said most everything that I would.  I still help with lots of administrivia.  Ds is getting better, but he is very busy with the heavy advanced load at school, so I don't mind helping out.  If you are familiar with asynchronous development in gifted kids, I consider this an example...ready for the academics of college, but not quite ready for the bureaucratic details.  

 


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#24 Julie of KY

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 07:09 AM

I agree - listen to Nan.

Growing up is a process. Your son is doing some amazing things and sounds like he wants your help to continue. I'd keep helping him while trying to move him toward independence. I wouldn't worry too much as long as he's making progress toward independence.



#25 Plum Crazy

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 07:26 AM

Thanks so much for this thread.
My almost 17yo son does great with meeting deadlines in his classes, but struggles with decisions. Not just the big decisions like what college and what major, but what general ed classes to take and how the schedule will line up. He slept through his open enrollment appointment and I let him sleep. I waited to see if the classes he had in his cart would still be open by the time he woke up, they were. He's always been a self-starter and a box-checker, so the suggestion above of making a visual list makes sense to me and I plan to have him start doing that. He's great when there's a plan, but figuring out a plan from scratch freezes him up.
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#26 Caroline

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 08:43 AM

Nan, thank you. I needed to read all of that today. Thank you.

And Jenny, good luck. Keep up the good work.

#27 SanDiegoMom in VA

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 11:25 AM

Only words of commiseration here... my dd17 is heading off to college in the fall.  I have no idea what to expect.  She does very poorly with deadlines, she still has trouble getting up in time for school, she procrastinates like crazy on almost everything.  She's always been able to pull things off at the last minute but smaller things (reminders to put the AP study guide from the library on hold, reminders to call and make a dentist or haircut appt) are never done.  She had to pay rush shipping to get her AP study book from amazon. I think it is a combination of Executive Functioning issues mixed with just the fact that applications, phone calls, deadlines, etc are so MUNDANE. She only likes to do the big stuff that matters, not the little day to day trivial things.  She is also creative -- she'll write for hours with extreme focus and discipline. But drink water? Eat on a schedule? Wake up before noon? Nope.  

 

She does use her iphone and sets reminders on google calendar.  Sometimes it helps.  Sometimes. 

 


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#28 fourisenough

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 04:00 PM

Your son sounds a bit like my DH. His mother was really relieved when we began seriously dating during our freshman year of college. I took over from her and helped keep him on task until his mid-20's when he really hit his stride. He's now the president of a company and has a fabulous administrative assistant who handles the stuff he doesn't want to do/isn't great at. Honestly, your DS's personality sounds like an executive...

Hang in there. I agree with Gr8lander upthread.
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#29 Jamberry77

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 04:17 PM

Just wanted to say that I just finished reading the library's copy of Scattered but Smart for Teens, all about executive functioning.  You probably don't need to read it, however, because the advice given to you is very similar to what is in the book.  Help, respectfully, as long as they need it, slowing drawing back how much you help.

 

 



#30 Jenny in Florida

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 08:58 PM

Thank you so much for the encouragement and the stories about how you all have dealt with similar challenges! I truly expected that the responses would be an avalanche of "He's an adult! Stop helicoptering!" So, it's nice to hear that others don't think we're doing this all wrong.

 

Plus, as always, chatting here, reading posts and writing my own responses (or sometimes responding in my own head) helped me sort through my own thoughts and feelings.

 

Basically, my husband and I have more or less decided that, barring any significant change one way or the other, we're going to keep helping/supporting/nudging our son towards a degree. When I add up all of the factors, consider what a good kid he really (mostly) is, how well he's doing (mostly) in school, how much potential he has, etc., it seems absurd to walk away because he's not good at handling the digital equivalent of paperwork.

 

With the wise words of Nan and Merry echoing in my brain, I spoke to him today about the transfer application. I was out with a friend for much of the afternoon, and he came home from work while I was still out. So, when I got home, we took a few minutes to catch up and chat about our days. I then told him I was going to change clothes but that, when I came back, I would be poking him about checking the status of his application. He grumbled, but logged into his e-mail and forwarded me the necessary information.

 

While we logged into the portal, I explained that I am 100% content to act as his executive assistant during this process, but that if he wants me to do that he needs to give me the information I need to do the job. I said I would stay out of his way and let him take care of it if he preferred, but I know he is busy.

 

He said he is fine with having me do these things for him and promised to be better about responding to my requests for information.

 

I've more or less decided that this will be my approach from now on: "This needs to be done today. If you don't have time to do it now, please get me the information I need so I can take care of it for you."

 

I'm sure it won't always be smooth sailing and I will still have days when, despite my pacifist convictions I will feel a strong urge to strangle him, but I feel a little more centered and optimistic about the whole thing.

 

Thanks again, all!


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#31 Jenny in Florida

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 09:28 PM

Does he really have big goals, or does he SAY he has big goals because you are trying so hard to make sure he doesn't make your mistakes that he doesn't want to disappoint you?

 

 

 

I would like to gently suggest that if you are struggling to find the line, perhaps it's already been crossed.  Maybe not, but maybe so. 

 

 

 

ETA:   I went back and re-read to be sure I wasn't missing something.

 

I didn't see where you said he had a specific career goal in mind?  You said he told you, after you asked, that he wants to finish his bachelors.  You also said he's looking at an undeclared major.

 

Honestly, to me, those don't sound like "big goals."    Those sound like "just finish school."   What does he want to do AFTER school?  What career does he want?

 

Because my posts have already been wordy, I opted not to get into details. (I've also been on these boards long  enough to know that many folks get pretty judgy about arts majors and  that giving details about his plans would open the door to people lecturing me on that topic.) But, yes, he's very clear about what he wants to do. He's been extremely involved in theatre, both onstage and backstage, since he was about eight years old and continues to pursue that as a career. 

 

At this point, it looks like by the end of the summer he will have an A.A. in drama/theatre and a technical certificate in entertainment design and technology from the community college. 

 

Ultimately, he wants to run his own performing arts company and school, which would allow him to do -- or at least have a hand in -- many of the things he loves and has trained for, including choreography as well as costume and set design. However, he plans to spend some time working in the field before setting up his own shop.

 

He did his first two years of college in a musical theatre BFA program before deciding that, while he loves performing, he felt more passionately interested in getting formal training on the technical side, which was not offered at the school he was attending. Our local state university has a BFA in theatre design/tech, which he was interested in applying for; however, as I mentioned, he learned after corresponding with the faculty there that the program is small and selective and that transfer acceptances are pretty rare. Because it's a structured BFA program, it is also very possible that he would lose quite a bit of ground transferring in midway and that he would have needed more than two years to finish. I strongly suspect that is a large part of the reason he couldn't muster the enthusiasm required to compile and submit that application.

 

The university also offers a more general B.A. in "theatre studies." Because he already has a boatload of credit hours, assuming the majority of them transfer (which they should, since it's all in-state and there are pretty clear equivalents), he has already fulfilled the bulk of the requirements for that degree, meaning that he likely could basically "serve his time" completing the university's residency requirements by taking mostly classes that appeal to him. The degree does require a minor in a related field, and the university offers a dance minor, which would be a perfect fit.

 

I did not say he was looking at an undeclared major, but that, since he's likely missed the window to be accepted into the theatre studies major for this fall, he may need to get started and then work out how to apply to the program. The difference may be subtle from the outside, but it's pretty clear to him (and to me).


Edited by Jenny in Florida, 20 May 2017 - 09:29 PM.

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#32 Nan in Mass

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 09:31 PM

Jenny, I think that is a great approach. Nice phrasing. It sounds helpful and respectful and it will be good training for when he has to coordinate with other people at work on a joint project.

Hugs,
Nan